Jean S. (Sawyer) Kahan

May 8, 1941 ~ June 19, 2020 (age 79)


Jean Kahan passed away on June 19 of natural causes in Marlton, NJ. She is survived by her husband of 52 years Fred, stepson Dan, daughter-in-law Susan and two grandsons, and by her brother George and 4 nephews. Jean was born in 1941 and grew up in New Providence NJ. She majored in Chemistry at Bucknell. At a time when few US firms would employ a single young woman, she sought work abroad at CIBA in Basel Switzerland, then briefly at Columbia P&S prior to her hire in 1966 as a biochemist by the Merck Research Laboratories in Rahway NJ. She joined Merck in the same week as her future husband. They met, married and collaborated during a 27 year career in the discovery and development of antibiotics. She was the principal discoverer of Thienamycin, the prototype for the family of carba-penem antibiotics used since the mid 80's to combat antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections in hospitals. Merck's product, PRIMAXIN, is included in the World Health Organization's list of essential medicines. Upon retirement from her productive career, Jean succeeded the founder of the Sjögren's Syndrome Foundation as its President, qualified as a Master Gardener of Union Co. and for decades sang with the Choral Art Society of NJ in Westfield. Her hobbies included cultivation of miniature orchids under lights and pursuing birds and butterflies with her husband. She marvelled at all creatures in Nature and will be sorely missed. In these times of need, she would wish you to direct any tributes in her memory to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey.

Suppose, then, it were possible, not only to swear love “forever” but actually to follow through on it - to live a long, full and authentic life based on such a vow, to put one's allotted stake of precious time where one's heart is?

.. from Pynchon's review of Marquez' “Love in the Time of Cholera” NYT April 10, 1988

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Private Services

Medford Leas
1 Medford Leas Way
Medford, NJ 08055


The Food Bank of South Jersey
1501 Tipton, Pennsauken NJ 08110

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